Over at SB Nation’s Texas Tech blog, Double T Nation, they’re all over this story, including an article they found this morning which reached out to former Texas Tech players for their perspective. From the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:
Several former Red Raiders vehemently defended Leach on Monday after he was indefinitely suspended by the university for his alleged mistreatment of an injured player. Leach’s punishment came in response to a complaint made by sophomore receiver Adam James and his family, along with the results of an internal investigation that Tech administrators said is ongoing. […]
[Former player, Glenn] January said the shed in which James spent practice on Dec. 17 might have been the most appropriate place to deal with his concussion, because it kept him out of the sunlight. January said he and his teammates on the offensive line often retreated to the same shed during practices to rest and escape the heat.
"It’s not like it’s some dungeon," he said.
To which Double T Nation responded:
There’s a few things to take away from some of these former players: 1) Loper doesn’t come out and simply confirm what some of may think about Adam, but he certainly takes the stance Adam may not be the sort that is cut out to play college football; 2) the darkest place in all of humanity is starting to sound like a place out of the sun light and not a dungeon or some sort of threatening place, but a place where players would convene to get out of the sun.
So while yesterday’s account of the events left Leach looking like a cretin, it seems his players remember a different coach. Again from the Avalanche, another ex-Red Raider, currently in the NFL, says he never saw Coach Leach put any player in harm’s way:
"The whole time I was there, and as well as I know coach Leach, he would never do anything to publicly humiliate or endanger someone’s well-being, and he would never do anything unprofessional," Loper said. "… I never saw him show any kind of favoritism or any kind of hate toward any singular person."
Perhaps the public’s been rushing to judgment on this one? The description we heard sounded like the work of a callous, reckless bully. But then, there’s two sides to every story. To wit, Leach’s lawyer explains the coach’s side of things:
Ted Liggett, Leach’s attorney, said James “was placed in an equipment room as it was much cooler and darker” than the practice field “after a doctor had examined him and returned him to the field.”
Liggett said that on that day, a trainer was posted outside the room and that James was provided ice. Liggett said that James was secluded for one to two hours. Liggett said that on another occasion, James was placed in a “press room with air-conditioning and a stationary bike he could use.” Liggett also said Leach placed James in those environments because “Mike tries to keep the players that are unable to practice as close as he can.”
While the initial news yesterday made this sound like a sort of doomsday scenario for Leach, now it seems like perhaps Leach is being painted in an unfair light. The perceived brutality toward James—and insensitivity to concussions—now seems overblown. The player wasn’t locked in an electrical closet or some otherwise hellish chamber from our nightmares.
Would this be a big deal if Adam James wasn’t the son of a famous ESPN Broadcaster? Maybe not. None of this exonerates Leach at the moment, but as opposed to yesterday’s swift condemnations, suddenly there’s a shadow of doubt as to whether any of this merits attention.